Rogue, Fantomex, and Mystique have been stowed away in the Astral Plane by the ghost of Professor Xavier. Here, we figure out just how long he has been war with Farouk the Shadow King. He’s been at this since Cyclops killed him during Avengers vs. X-Men (which is probably, what, a year ago in continuity time?).
Gambit was given up to the Shadow King as a sacrifice play, and he’s out in the physical world and spreading possession like a disease. Somehow, the Shadow King capable of expanding his control by getting his puppets to touch others.
In the midst of all this, Xavier is also having a private conversation with Fantomex on the subject of the thief’s creation and potential.
“Life of X” is running longer than it should by now, and I’m ready to see how this story is going to end. In terms of a team formation tale, this is far too long. Given that these characters have been long-established and worked together before in other combinations, it’s slightly understandable that this first arc is more concerned with telling a grand plot as opposed to justifying this particular formation of X-Men. However, I’m ready to see how they will actually get along as opposed to an extended and increasingly convoluted conflict with the Shadow King which has resurrected Xavier for a bit.
That being said, as an individual issue, Astonishing X-Men #5 isn’t bad. Professor X trying to get through to the shriveled heart inside Fantomex is engaging. The Shadow King being able to infect people now is an interesting escalation.
However, the other means of escalation used towards the end does keep it from being particularly good, either. Spoilers, but the UK military decides, rather abruptly, to go ahead and bomb the part of the city where the X-Men and Shadow King infected are located. No calling Excalibur, the Avengers, or even a more numerous security force. Just go ahead and bomb it; that’s fine.
The commander of this paramilitary unit seems to have a hard-on for hating mutants, so there is a possibility he will turn out to be a Purifier or something. However, as of right now, this plot point just ridiculous.
The art of Ramon Rosanas has its ups and downs. Much of it is just solid enough to function, and the Astral Plane armor design of Rogue, Fantomex, and Mystique leaves a little to be desired. The action scenes are few and unexciting, though that is just as much a part of the writing. The overall style is fairly low energy and not especially striking. However, there are a couple of cool tapestry-type scenes, particularly when an army of Wolverines, Colossuses, Storms, and Icemen are shown going to war with Farouk on behalf of Xavier. There’s also a transformation at the end which looks great.
Nolan Woodard’s color work is alright, but it’s similarly unexciting. His color work is great, more often than not. However, here, it looks a little dulled.
Astonishing X-Men #5 is the weakest issue of the series thus far, but it’s not awful or unreadable. It’s still recommendable to the devoted X-Men fan, but I’m not sure it will do much for anyone disinterested with Marvel’s premiere mutants.
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